My Dear Parishioners:
I can remember telling my grandma that I wished she lived forever. She looked at me and said, “Honey I want to see God and your sister one day, I can’t and don’t want to live forever.” My facial expression gave away how I felt about that answer. She hugged me and said quietly, “We live our lives in the shadow of death. It’s a part of our life.” As a teenager, I found the statement to be deep and life enhancing when understood correctly. In fact, merely hearing it brought about a desire to live my life to the fullest at every moment.

That statement has been true in 2020 maybe more than any other year as local and national media regularly report death counts from all over the world and daily public service announcements can be heard over the airwaves asking us to act responsibly.

But death is not new to us—despite the unprecedented times we live in. In fact, we live every day with the understanding that it may be our last. Not in a morbid, depressing way (shockingly so), but in the awareness and reality of understanding life.

Every time I get in my car to drive to the supermarket or home to my parent’s house on Long Island, I know, instinctively that something tragic could happen to me or another driver. I also know full-well, that even if I don’t leave my house, a medical emergency could befall me or someone I love. I am not immune from a cancer diagnosis or a brain aneurysm.

I have plenty of loved ones who unexpectedly received life-changing news or were tragically stricken

As grandma said, “Life is lived under the shadow of death.” The reality of it surrounds us every day of our lives. And even if we don’t have a close one who recently passed away, we almost certainly know someone who has. Nobody escapes life alive.

But somehow it seems, human beings are able to both live with the knowledge of death and somehow function apart from it.

Death is inevitable. And yet, I am able to live wholly today, focused on the present and the future, as if it won’t happen to me. I am aware of a coming death, but not paralyzed by it. It is a fascinating paradox and ability of the human mind when you think about it.

While the shadow of death does not paralyze me, in the quiet moments of life, when I celebrate a funeral Mass, the shadow motivates and sharpens the wisest among us.

Only a fool live as if their life will never end. We receive one life to live, with a limited number of days and
a limited number of resources with which to accomplish our purpose. Almost all the resources we consume during our journey are limited: money, time, energy, space, focus, capacity, even the relationships we are able to pursue.

This reality of our finite nature is an incredibly important truth. It is one we should intentionally choose to focus on each day. Because when we do, it changes our actions, our motivations, and our pursuits. It changes us.

Because life is finite, we make better choices. Because time is finite, we append our day on things that matter. Because money is finite, we spend it on pursuits that will outlast us. Because our days are finite, we value relationships and love. We are not meant to hide and let life pass us by. We are not meant to hide and only see loved ones by Zoom meetings. Life is too short, and we do live in the shadow of death.

Life will end—indeed. And that realization should affect the decisions we make each day. But rather than causing us to throw down the towel and give up on life, this shadow of death will spark hope and resolve and passion to spend each remaining day of our life making the most of it.

Fr. Monteleone

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